Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"The Coming of Age of Hybrids," Jeanette Blomberg (by BC)

It seems that Tina had a stroke of brilliance in citing Donna Haraway. Jeanette discussed the notion of hybridization in her introduction for Day Two in tackling the initial question of "What is ethnographic praxis?" The constituents of the EPIC crowd represent a variety of differing perspectives on this question, a testament to size and variety in this field, as well as the difficulty in answering this question.

The workshops from the previous day also served to tackle this lumbering beast of hybridization - with an examination of the links between differing elements, e.g., business and religion, the social and the technical, real and virtual, in the practice of ethnography. These elements are not as distinct as prima facie assumed. From her own example, Jeanette cited the relation of the social and the technical as inextricably linked but not as a one-way relation or even fixed in influence. Technology shapes the possibilities, trajectories, and forms of sociality just as the latter can influence or even dictate the use and design of technologies.

In her example of "project rooms," we looked to how the physical space defines social interaction ("physical space shapes the possibilities of interaction") - but also how social interaction defines the physical space as well, how the people who are using the rooms, and the expertise they bring, influences how these spaces are used in a given moment. Further, with Jeanette's discussion of meetings we see another dualism arise with the "real" and "virtual" (online) spaces. For example, people are meeing in a physical space (at an office) while other people, also at the meeting, are dialing in while on a train or at an airport, following the meeting's artifacts with a laptop and NetMeeting. Here we see another example where ethnographers can flex their analytic muscles in conceptualizing and categorizing these two areas and examining how they work together in a very ordinary, "mundane" way to create those everyday events that are at the core of our study.

And - for my own confession - I was amazed to see the extent of this trend of hybridization of business and spirituality, that of exploring spirituality as a means to corporate and management philosophy.

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